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Saturday, 12 January, 2002, 19:37 GMT
UK praises 'courageous' Musharraf
Pakistanis watch the live television address of President Pervez Musharraf
Musharraf said Pakistan had become a 'soft state'
Downing Street has applauded Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's fierce attack on extremism, which could lead to a reduction in military tension with neighbouring India.

In a major televised national address on Saturday, Pakistan's military ruler pledged to punish anyone responsible for extremism in Indian-administered Kashmir or involved in religious intolerance within Pakistan.

We applaud his courageous and forceful defence of a tolerant and moderate Islam

Downing Street
And he announced that two groups India blames for an attack on its parliament last month, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, are now banned.

The attack on 13 December claimed the lives of 14 people, including five terrorists, and led to a major build-up of troops on the border between the two nuclear powers in the disputed state of Kashmir.

Commenting on General Musharraf's address, Prime Minister Tony Blair's spokesman said he had been "courageous" in his defence of moderate Islam.

"We welcome President Musharraf's outright condemnation and rejection of terrorism in all its forms and his pledge to deal very firmly with anyone committing terrorist acts from inside Pakistan," he said.


"We applaud his courageous and forceful defence of a tolerant and moderate Islam and condemnation of all forms of sectarianism and religious hatred.

"And we welcome President Musharraf's clear appeal for a normalisation of relations with India and the resolution of differences over Kashmir through peaceful means and dialogue.

"We hope that India will respond positively to that message and to the banning of the two Kashmir separatist groups suspected of links to the December attack on the Parliament building in New Delhi."

Last week Mr Blair visited Pakistan and India on a long-planned visit to south Asia and said he hoped his government could provide a "calming influence" in the region.

'Kalashnikov culture'

President Musharraf spent much of his speech berating religious intolerance and the disastrous effects it has had on his country.

"Pakistan has been turned into a soft state where law means little if anything," he warned.

"Violence and terrorism has been going on for years and we are weary and sick of this Kalashnikov culture."

He lambasted religious groups that had supported the Taleban in Afghanistan.

"They set up Pakistan-Afghan defence councils which served nothing but presenting negative views," the general said.

Within Pakistan itself, he said religious intolerance had led to a situation where "we started slaughtering each other in mosques, the houses of God".

President Musharraf
"Pakistan will not allow its territory to be used for any terrorist activity"
See also:

12 Jan 02 | South Asia
Musharraf declares war on extremism
07 Jan 02 | South Asia
Blair urges Kashmir dialogue
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